Black History Facts

BLACK HISTORY INVENTIONS AND DISCOVERIES

Firsts |Inventions & DiscoveriesLittle Known Facts | Record-Breakers


Check out 36 Black History inventors and ground-breakers who left their mark in our collective history.


Fact #1

Nathaniel Alexander was the first to patent the folding chair. His invention was designed to be used in schools, churches and at large social gatherings.

Fact #2

Andrew Jackson Beard invented the "Jenny Coupler" in 1897, a device which allowed train cars to hook themselves together when they are bumped into one another. The device saved the lives of many railroad workers, who originally had the dangerous job of hooking the moving cars together by hand.

Fact #3

Henry Blair, the second African-American to receive a patent, invented a corn seed planter in 1834 and a cotton planter in 1836. Blair could not read or write and signed his patent with an X.


Fact #4

Otis Boykin invented electronic control devices for guided missiles, IBM computers, and the control unit for a pacemaker.

Fact #5

C.B. Brooks invented the street sweeper in 1896. It was a truck equipped with brooms.

Fact #6

Henry Brown created what is now known as a "strongbox", a metal container to store money and important papers that could be locked with a key.

Fact #7

George Carruthers invented the far ultraviolet electrographic camera, used in the 1972 Apollo 16 mission. This invention revealed new features in Earth's far-outer atmosphere and deep-space objects from the perspective of the lunar surface. Carruthers was inducted into the National Inventor's Hall of Fame in 2003.

Fact #8

In 1897, African-American inventor Alfred Cralle patented the first ice cream scoop. His original design remains in wide use, even today.

Fact #9

African-American mechanical engineer, David Crosthwait, Jr. created the heating systems for the Rockefeller Center and New York's Radio City Music Hall.

Fact #10

David Crosthwait, Jr., who created the heating system for New York City's Radio City Music Hall, holds 39 U.S. patents and 80 international patents pertaining to heating, refrigeration and temperature regulating systems.

Fact #11

Mark Dean along with his co-inventor Dennis Moelle created a microcomputer system with bus control means for peripheral processing devices. This invention allows the use of computer plug-ins like disk drives, speakers, scanners, etc...

Fact #12

African-American surgeon Charles R. Drew is often credited with the invention of the first large-scale blood bank.



Fact #13

The first sociology department in the U.S. was established by educator and civil rights leader, W.E.B. Du Bois.

Fact #14

Sarah E. Goode invented a bed that folded up into a cabinet in 1885. Contrary to popular belief, she was not the first African-American woman to receive a patent, but the second.

Fact #15

In 1899, African-American golf fan Dr. George Franklin Grant received a patent for the world's first golf tee. Grant, however, never marketed his invention, instead giving the tees away to friends and fellow golfers.

Fact #16

Thomas L. Jennings was the first African-American to receive a patent in 1821. It was for a dry-cleaning process in 1821. He used the money earned from the patent to purchase relatives out of slavery and support abolitionist causes.

Fact #17

Lonnie G. Johnson, an engineer who performed spacecraft system design for NASA, invented the Super Soaker water gun—the number one selling toy in America in 1991.



Fact #18

Frederick Jones held over 60 patents, with most of them pertaining to refrigeration. His portable air conditioner was used in World War II to preserve medicine and blood serum.

Fact #19

Dr. Maulana Karenga created the African-American holiday, Kwanzaa, in 1966.

Fact #20

History has credited Thomas Edison with the invention of the light bulb, but fewer people know about Lewis Latimer's innovations toward its development. Until Latimer's process for making carbon filament, Edison's light bulbs would only burn for a few minutes. Latimer's filament burned for several hours.

Fact #21

Joseph Lee invented a bread-making machine that mixed the ingredients and kneaded the dough in 1895.

Fact #22

John Love invented the pencil sharpener in 1897.

Fact #23

Thomas J. Martin patented a fire extinguisher in 1872.

Fact #24

Bridget "Biddy" Mason founded the First African Methodist Episcopalian church in Los Angeles.

Fact #25

Jan Ernst Matzeliger invented the Shoe Lasting machine, which connected the upper part of the shoe to the sole, a painstaking process that was usually done by hand. This invention revolutionized the shoe making industry.

Fact #26

Elijah McCoy invented an automatic lubricator for oiling steam engines in 1872. The term "the real McCoy" is believed to be a reference about the reliability of Elijah McCoy's invention.

Fact #27

Alexander Miles of Duluth, Minnesota patented an electric elevator in 1887 with automatic doors that would close off the shaft way, thus making elevators safer.

Fact #28

African-American inventor Garrett Augustus Morgan created the gas mask—then became renowned for using his mask to save workers trapped in a toxic fume-filled tunnel.

Fact #29

Garrett Augustus Morgan invented, among many other things, a three-way automatic stop sign, which he sold to General Electric. It was used in the U.S. until the three-light traffic sign was developed.

Fact #30

L.P. Ray invented the dustpan in 1897.

Fact #31

George T. Sampson invented a clothes dryer that used heat from a stove in 1892.

Fact #32

Radio personalities Hal Jackson and Percy Sutton co-founded the Inner City Broadcasting Corporation (ICBC). They also acquired WLIB, which became the first African-American owned and operated station in New York.

Fact #33

Lewis Temple (1800 - 1854) revolutionized the whaling industry with his invention of the toggle harpoon in 1848.

Fact #34

James West's research in sound technology led to the development of foil-electret transducers used in 90 percent of all microphones built today and in most new telephones being manufactured. West holds 47 U.S. and more than 200 foreign patents on microphones and techniques for making polymer foil-electrets. He was inducted into the National Inventor's Hall of Fame in 1999.

Fact #35

Joseph Winters invented a fire escape ladder in 1878.

Fact #36

Granville Woods (1856 - 1910) invented numerous devices relating to the railroad including a system of overhead electric conducting lines, air brakes and a telegraph system that allowed communication between moving trains.

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